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Wages for workers in Ecuador and Colombia: Progress in banana sectors

Christian Fernsby ▼ | November 12, 2019
In the week of the Living Wage and Living Income Conference, ‘The Only Way is Up’, Fairtrade recognizes the crucial role of governments, unions and employers towards improving living conditions for workers.
Banana workers in Ecuador and Colombia
LatAm   Banana workers in Ecuador and Colombia
Following years of engaging and advocating for decent salaries, Fairtrade is delighted to see progress in the banana sectors and will continue to support these efforts in all banana producing countries.

Topics: Wages workers Ecuador Colombia banana

In Ecuador, the salario digno has been established by the government to ensure a just remuneration for workers and reduce poverty.

All plantation workers, including those with the lowest salaries, receive at least the salario digno a decent wage of $444.62 per month, which is higher than the country’s minimum wage.

Preliminary data shows that, on Fairtrade certified plantations, the lowest paid employee receives $570, plus an average premium of US$31 to contribute toward collective projects.

In the case of Colombia, strong collaboration between trade unions and plantation owners has played an important role in reaching collective bargaining agreements to increase salaries.

In September 2019, SINTRAINAGRO, the Colombia’s banana workers’ union, and AUGURA, the employers’ association, which represents the majority of bananas grown for export in Colombia, signed a new agreement to increase salaries by a further 5.5 percent.

This increase also comes on top of a negotiated wage rate that exceeds the current minimum wage in the country.

Fairtrade supports companies by ensuring a stable income for their bananas through the payment of a Fairtrade Minimum Price.

In addition, for each box of Fairtrade bananas sold, the workers on Fairtrade certified plantations receive Premium funds which can be used to supplement the basic needs that are part of improved living conditions.

For example, employees and their families have access to free education, but using the Fairtrade Premium they can pay for necessary school supplies such as uniforms, shoes and backpacks, and transport to and from school.

Employees can access local health care, but the Premium allows them to bypass long waiting times, purchase good quality care and have access to maternal health services, dentists, and emergency care, for example.

A living wage is a benchmark for the minimum pay that employees receive for a standard working week that allows them to enjoy a decent standard of living.

It is a wage from which adequate and nutritious food, decent housing, clothing, education, health care, transport and a small buffer for unforeseen expenses can be paid.

Local actors in Ecuador and Colombia have made great strides towards paying their workers a decent wage, and Fairtrade seeks to affirm their accomplishments with living wage benchmarks that demonstrate a concerted effort to alleviating poverty in the banana sectors in those countries.

However, other banana producing countries still have a long way to go.

In some countries, legal minimum wage levels are inadequate for workers to meet their essential needs.

Fairtrade is prioritizing work in banana-producing countries where living wage benchmarks have shown this gap to be significant.